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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Catholic parish offers sanctuary amid Minneapolis riots

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:17

Minneapolis, Minn., Jun 2, 2020 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- As protests turned violent Thursday night after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer, a small Catholic parish in Minneapolis became a refuge for neighbors who didn't feel safe in their homes.

St. Albert the Great Parish, located in the Longfellow neighborhood, sheltered 34 neighbors as riots destroyed surrounding businesses and damaged homes the night of May 28. Less than a mile from the church, thousands of protesters gathered to burn the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct, many of them inflicting violence on the surrounding area as well.

Father Joe Gillespie, pastor of St. Albert the Great, said the church’s neighbors feared fire and burglary, and asked the church for shelter. After receiving a call from the Volunteers of America asking for assistance, the church welcomed its neighbors into the church social hall, asking them to provide their own blankets and mats to sleep on.

“It wasn't a Hilton,” Gillespie told CNA, while adding that the church basement provided running water and plenty of bathrooms.

The church is a back-up site for the Volunteers of America, which houses former inmates transitioning back into the workforce in Minneapolis. In case of floods or power-outages, residents can seek refuge in St. Albert the Great.

Although the parish’s partnership with Volunteers of America has been in place for over 10 years, the church had not been thus-utilized until this crisis.

St. Albert the Great office and communications manager Erin Sim received the call from the Volunteers of America the morning of May 28, and immediately made the church basement available to them.

“You can't just help your own, you have to be available to help everybody,” she said.

As violence once again escalated that night, some of the residents who sought shelter in the church took the building’s safety into their own hands. They took shifts to keep watch over the building, joining a group of Native Americans who kept watch over the attached Native American immersion charter school.

“We have been miraculously spared from the devastation around the Church,” said Sim.

Father Joseph Williams of St. Stephen's Church in Minneapolis also received a call from a parishioner seeking refuge in the church. The Sanchez-Ponce family, who also live in the area surrounding the Third Police Precinct, took shelter in the church rectory the night of May 28, according to a report by the Catholic Spirit.

Not every Twin Cities parish emerged unscathed; the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis suffered fire damage, and graffiti was found on the Church of St. Mark in St. Paul, over two miles away from the heart of the violence.

“It had a war-like quality,” said Gillespie. “We’ve been under siege.”

In wake of the violence inflicted on their community, Gillespie said that the message of togetherness during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic extends to this situation.

“We’re in this together,” said Gillespie, echoing the refrain of the pandemic. “It takes a neighborhood to repair itself. It’s not just my house or my church, it's our church and our house.”

“[St. Albert’s] has always been a welcoming parish,” said Gillespie. The church has been in the neighborhood for 85 years and was a place that the community gravitated to when their homes felt threatened.

“Any church offers that possibility in times of need,” said Gillespie, who said the parish follows the “sanctuary model.”

The Saint Albert the Great community has received an outpouring of donations to distribute to those in need, including water, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and food. Gillespie noted that the church received three substantial monetary donations the morning of June 1 alone.

Giving back to those in need is nothing new to St. Albert’s church: even before the recent destruction in the neighborhood, St. Albert was helping to provide food and rent to those most affected by the pandemic.

Parishioner Rebecca Davis, who has lived in the Longfellow neighborhood since 2001, said that she thinks of St. Albert the Great as “the little parish that could.”

Since the onset of the coronavirus, St. Albert’s has organized teams of parishioners to serve the community, both parishioners and non-Catholics alike.

The community response to the violence accompanying protests has largely been a grass-roots effort to meet the community’s needs as they emerge.

“It's a lot of pop-up organizations,'' said St. Albert the Great part-time staff member Ed Burke. “One day they will come up, they will start taking donations, they will fill a field, and then they will stop. So then you go somewhere else.”

“So many people want to help but they aren't sure what to do,” said Davis. She recently tried donating food to a local school that called for donations, and joined a line that stretched around several blocks in order to do so.

“So much has been destroyed,” said Sim, “but [it is] inviting us to think about the world we want to rebuild.”

Despite the destruction he has witnessed in the past week, Father Gillespie will not give up his sense of humor.

“I haven't been to a slumber party since I was about 10,” said Gillespie, reflecting on Thursday night.

Sen. Sasse: ‘Word of God’ not a prop for politics

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:00

CNA Staff, Jun 2, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) issued a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday condemning President Donald Trump’s brief appearance in front of an historic church in Washington, D.C., Monday, during which the president held up a Bible. 

Trump posed for pictures Monday evening in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, walking to the building from the White House Rose Garden after protestors were cleared from Lafayette Park.

“There is no right to riot, no right to destroy others’ property, and no right to throw rocks at police,” said Sasse on Tuesday. “But there is a fundamental--a Constitutional--right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop.” 

On Monday, Trump walked from the Rose Garden to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which sustained damage in the riots. A fire broke out in the church’s basement nursery, but the flames were quickly extinguished before they could spread throughout the building. 

Every sitting U.S. president since James Madison has attended a church service at St. John’s Episcopal. 

Trump condemned the apparent arson attempt during his address to the nation on Monday evening, after which he posed in front of the church with members of his cabinet and holding a Bible. 

The path the president took to the church had been occupied with protestors, who were dispersed by police during the president’s address. It is unclear as to what prompted this dispersal. While cities across the U.S. have seen outbreaks of looting and violence, the protests in Lafayette Park, focusing on the May 25 death of George Floyd, were widely reported to be non-violent.

The Park Police denied they were ordered to clear the protestors for the photo opportunity, and instead said that they did so as the protestors were throwing water bottles at the police. The Park Police also denied an allegation they had used tear gas to clear the park, and insisted they used smoke bombs. 

However, on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Attorney General William Barr requested that the security perimeter of the area be expanded. After Barr ordered the perimeter to be expanded, the Post reported, the protestors were removed from the scene. 

In his statement Tuesday, Sasse added that it is the role of public servants to “lower the temperature” in society, and attempt to defuse tensions. 

“That means saying two basic truths over and over,” said Sasse. “1. Police injustice--like the evil murder of George Floyd--is repugnant and merits peaceful protest aimed at change,” and “2. Riots are abhorrent acts of violence that hurt the innocent.” 

These two principles must be put forward “loudly and repeatedly,” said the senator, “as Americans work to end the violence and injustice.”

Sasse is known to be a devoted promoter of the right to religious liberty, and is himself a committed Christian. Before he was elected to the Senate, Sasse was president of Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska, the state he now represents as a legislator.

Black Catholics urge prayer, change after Floyd killing and riots

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 17:08

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 2, 2020 / 03:08 pm (CNA).- The killing of George Floyd and the protests it has sparked represent a defining moment for the Catholic Church, according to Black Catholics throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

“I’m looking to my community to accompany us,” said Sabrina Carter, a 24-year-old nonprofit marketing professional and member of St. Athanasius Parish in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane section. “I’m leaning on fellow Catholics, all the way up to the pope, because I know what they can do; I’ve seen their potential to effect change.”

Father Stephen Thorne, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in North Philadelphia, said that Floyd’s death and the outrage it has unleashed “(bring) home the issue that we have to see each other as fellow human beings, with the dignity of God’s children.”

“The (U.S.) bishops are very clear about being informed, speaking out and being intentional in our encounters with one another,” said Father Thorne.

Floyd died May 25 while under Minneapolis police restraint, just days after Georgia resident Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot by a former police officer and his son. On March 13, Kentucky EMT worker Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by police serving a search warrant for drugs; none were found in her apartment.

A number of those interviewed by CatholicPhilly said that the Floyd, Arbery and Taylor deaths — along with the police-related killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in 2014 — underscore the systemic racism decried by the U.S. bishops in a 2018 pastoral letter.

“If it seems like only one incident started this, then you’re missing a lot regarding what the whole African-American community has been dealing with,” said Carter.

And although political activism has a role in combating inequality, “we need a spiritual facelift in this country,” said Father Thorne. “We have been marred by racism. We need a new Pentecost, because this is not who we are.”

Racism hits home

Carter’s brother Donovan, a sophomore at Community College of Philadelphia, said that most participants at the May 30 Center City protests, including him, sought “to express how they felt in a reverent and peaceful manner.”

“The media has been painting a picture that all the protests were filled with rage-induced people who only wanted to inflict that same violence on police officers in the name of George Floyd,” he said.

While filming the demonstration, Carter said he noticed that after about an hour “more people were beginning to join (who) looked … suspicious,” carrying “bats and spray cans.” Shortly afterward, he saw “the slime of chaos unfold,” he said.

With “some of the most violent incidents” happening in front of him, he and his friends left the area, while continuing to monitor the situation through social media posts.

Like his sister and their parents, Donald and Valerie, Carter emphasized the need for an honest evaluation of racial tensions in the light of Christian faith.

“I felt it was important to be (at the protests), and as a black male to express how I felt,” he said, adding that even amid its tragic consequences, the gathering showed “how many people are part of this movement and really do care.”

For the Carter family, all of whom are St. Athanasius parishioners, and for others in the archdiocese, racism has hit home.

As a 12-year-old, Donovan Carter was frisked by police while walking down the street from his home to purchase a snack. He said the experience taught him that such encounters easily could “become one of your last seconds on earth.”

His father Donald said the entire family was once “targeted by a police officer” and was pulled over while driving to a store.

His children “got to see how we handled it,” said the elder Carter, an operational manager for a local bank and a member of the Knights of St. Peter Claver, the country’s largest African-American lay Catholic organization.

Noting that he had been frisked at an even younger age than his son and had experienced racism throughout his 30-year career, Donald Carter said it was “frustrating” that “things haven’t changed” since his own childhood.

“You always hope your children wouldn’t have to experience the same ugliness and hate that you did,” he said.

His wife Valerie said that “as the mother of an African American male, it is stressful as (her son) leaves the house.”

“Over the years, we have seen things happen,” she said. “I want to think that it’s not going to be bad as the last riot or unrest, but each time it seems worse.”

John Wilson, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Doylestown, said he’d been forced to have a “tragic but necessary conversation” with his own son, instructing him to “give police nothing to be concerned about” should he ever be detained by law enforcement.

At the same time, like all of those with whom CatholicPhilly spoke, Wilson – who counts several police officers as friends – underlined that law enforcement personnel should not be targeted for violence, and that their efforts to preserve order and safety deserve support.

“I’m well aware of how difficult it must be to be a police officer,” said Wilson, noting that he and his friends “don’t shy away from talking about this (issue).”

Wilson, who leads a men’s Bible study group, said that such honesty and the willingness to listen to others are key to dismantling racism and healing its wounds, as is the active participation of the entire church.

“You can’t be a passenger in this,” said Wilson. “Christianity is not a spectator event, and the work needs to be done by us.”

Father Thorne agreed, noting that “no one is exempt from this conversation,” which should begin with a deeper understanding of the roots of racism.

“This issue is about eternal life; this is about the God I serve,” he said.

Pointing out that Floyd had died just before Pentecost while gasping “I can’t breathe,” Father Thorne said that “we need the Holy Spirit to breathe on us again” to remind us that “we all breathe the same air.”

Individually and collectively, Catholics need to undertake a kind of “racial examen” to identify both active prejudice and its denial, said several of those interviewed by CatholicPhilly.

As a white pastor of a largely African American parish, Father Chris Walsh of St. Raymond of Penafort in Philadelphia said he believes “a large number of white people really do not believe (racism) exists.”

On Monday, June 1 at 7 p.m., Father Walsh will hold an online forum through his Facebook page to discuss the Floyd case and the issue of racism.

Msgr. Federico Britto, pastor of St. Cyprian Parish and administrator of St. Ignatius of Loyola in West Philadelphia, said that “racism is not just black and white,” but has manifested itself throughout U.S. history among various immigrant groups.

He said that Catholics “have to keep putting (their) feet to the ground and (their) words into action.”

“Even though we say the words and write pastoral letters, we have to make sure our organizations and our church are more diverse,” he said. “The bottom line is that people are asking for justice, and to be heard.”

Wilson said that process actually begins with listening to one’s own heart to sift through attitudes that deny “a common brotherhood” and ultimately “a common fatherhood,” as St. John Paul II reminded the faithful in a 2001 Angelus address.

Msgr. Britto said that “if we take the word of God seriously, we should be uncomfortable” with current racial inequalities.

Yet while all of those interviewed agreed that both church and society have, as Msgr. Britto said, “a long way to go” in countering racism, there is great reason for hope.

“The good news from my perspective is what I witness in my students,” said Kevin Williams, a theology teacher at Father Judge High School and member of St. Raymond Parish. “To their credit, they are far beyond the ignorance of racism and bigotry, and they have a connectedness with one another.”

Sabrina Carter said that despite the persistence of racism in the U.S., she believes that “people can change.”

“God works in mysterious ways,” she said. “He changes people’s hearts.”

.....

This article was originally published on catholicphilly.com. It is republished here with permission.

 

Trump signs order on international religious freedom after JPII shrine visit

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 15:55

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2020 / 01:55 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order “to advance international religious freedom,” after he visited the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.

The order calls religious freedom “a moral and national security imperative” and declares it “a foreign policy priority of the United States.”

The order calls for “robust” engagement with civic organizations in other countries, and also calls on the Secretary of State, in consultation with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to develop a plan to “prioritize” religious freedom in foreign policy and foreign assistance. International religious freedom is also to be part of U.S. diplomacy.

It also calls for a budget of at least $50 million for programs to help quell religious violence and persecution abroad and to protect religious minorities.

According to a senior administration official, the executive order builds upon Trump’s address to world leaders in September at the UN General Assembly where he called on countries to “end religious persecution.”

“Stop the crimes against people of faith. Release prisoners of conscience. Repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief. Protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed,” Trump said in September.

Tuesday’s order, the official said, implements that vision of international religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.

Trump signed the order after visiting the John Paul II shrine in northeast Washington, D.C. where he laid a wreath before a statue of Pope St. John Paul II. The wreath-laying commemorated the saint’s 100th birthday, which occurred on May 18, according to the President’s counselor Kellyanne Conway.

The shrine visit came amid widespread national rioting, and conflict over Trump’s response to protests and riots, including a controversial appearance at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday evening. Trump walked to the church, after police cleared a square of protesters and media, allegedly using smoke bombs or tear gas, along with non-lethal projectiles, in what protestors have described as a show of force.

That appearance came immediately after Trump said he would deploy the military to quell riots if he deemed it necessary - an announcement whose legality has since been questioned.

The shrine said Trump’s June 2 visit was planned well in advance of those recent controversies.

A spokesperson for the shrine said that the White House “originally scheduled this [visit] as an event for the president to sign an executive order on international religious freedom.” The president signed the order Tuesday after the visit, rather than at the shrine.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. said on Tuesday morning, just before Trump’s visit to the shrine, that he found it “baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree.”
 
Saint Pope John Paul II, Gregory continued, “would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Robert Nicholson, is president of the Philos Project, which aims to foster and advocate for religious engagement in the Middle East.

Nicholson told CNA Tuesday that while the timing of the president’s shrine visit was “is ill-timed and unfortunate,” he is nevertheless “grateful that the United States has been leading the campaign for religious freedom around the globe.”

“We need more religion in this world, not less. At a time when chaos reigns and mankind lies entangled in chains of his own making, the need for faith in transcendent truth becomes even clearer. Suppression of religion doesn’t stop the religious impulse. Sill driven to worship, men will make new gods of race and state,” Nicholson added.

“The crisis we are witnessing in America today is ultimately rooted in a loss of shared moral culture, a common vocabulary of truth on which the rest of society is built.”

“International religious freedom is the cause of all causes. It stands for the principle of free thought that God built into the world, a key component of the imago Dei. If there is just one cause we should promote, and promote tirelessly, it is this one,” he said.

During the president’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church, Trump held up a Bible in front of cameras in an apparent photo-op. The church had suffered fire damage during protests on Sunday night.

According to the Washington Examiner, police dispersed crowds around the church’s location shortly before Trump visited, allegedly to enforce a 7 p.m. curfew declared by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. The Examiner, however, reported that protests in nearby areas continued well after curfew, and that protesters around the church were reportedly driven away to make room for the President’s visit to St. John’s.

Conway told reporters on Tuesday that she was told “there was a plan to expand the perimeter” of police in the area, and that Trump was not aware “how law enforcement is handling his movements.”

She said on Tuesday that the signing of the religious freedom order, together with the visit to the shrine and recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on reopening houses of worship, is part of “a pretty consistent continuum for this president in standing up for religious rights.”

“I think it’s very unfortunate for people of faith to call into question what is in anyone’s heart, including the President’s, what compels him to go over to St. John’s and hold up his Bible,” Conway said.

JPII shrine says Trump visit long scheduled, while Archbishop Gregory calls it 'reprehensible'

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 12:10

Washington D.C., Jun 2, 2020 / 10:10 am (CNA).- Amid burgeoning conflict regarding the president’s response to riots across the country, President Donald Trump visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday morning.

While a shrine spokesman said the visit was initially planned as the signing of an international religious freedom executive order and had been scheduled some time ago, Washington’s archbishop called Trump’s visit to the shrine “reprehensible.”

According to the White House daily press guidance, Trump had a scheduled visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in the city’s northeast at 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday.

The president’s visit now comes shortly before he will sign an executive order “to advance international religious freedom.”

A spokesperson for the shrine said on Tuesday that the White House “originally scheduled this as an event for the president to sign an executive order on international religious freedom.”

“This was fitting given St. John Paul II was a tireless advocate of religious liberty throughout his pontificate,” the shrine stated. “International religious freedom receives widespread bipartisan support, including unanimous passage of legislation in defense of persecuted Christians and religious minorities around the world.”

He added that “the shrine welcomes all people to come and pray and learn about the legacy of St. John Paul II.”

The revamped visit, following nights of civil unrest in Washington, was met with criticism from Washginton’s archbishop.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. said on Tuesday morning: “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree.”

 

.@WashArchbishop Gregory has released a statement on the president's visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.https://t.co/46g9Ac8Wy5 pic.twitter.com/d1wERIoLVp

— DC Archdiocese (@WashArchdiocese) June 2, 2020  

“Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth,” Archbishop Gregory stated: “He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

The shrine contains a first-class relic of Pope St. John Paul II’s blood, as well as an interactive exhibit on his life, accomplishments, and significant historical events. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the shrine as a national shrine in 2014.

A group of around 200 protesters gathered on Tuesday morning down the street from the shrine. Some of the protesters chanted “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace,” while a small group of the protesters prayed the rosary.

According to a senior administration official, the executive order on international religious freedom Trump is scheduled to sign on Tuesday would continue his previous call for other countries “to end religious persecution.” It would integrate this call into U.S. foreign policy.

On Monday evening, Trump had visited St. John’s Episcopal Church adjacent to the White House, which every sitting U.S. president, beginning with James Madison, has attended.

Trump stood outside the church in front of cameras holding a Bible in one hand in an apparent photo-op. The church had suffered fire damage during protests on Sunday night.

At the time Trump stood outside the church, Washington, D.C. was entering a 7 p.m. curfew. Crowds had stood across from Lafayette Square behind the White House, protesting the death of George Floyd and police brutality.

According to the Washington Examiner, police dispersed crowds with tear gas and other non-lethal weapons on H Street behind the park and next to the church, but not one block over on Vermont Avenue where protests continued past curfew; the dispersal of the crowds was apparently done to make room for Trump’s visit to St. John’s rather than enforcing the city’s curfew.

 

Nuns praying for looters after attack on Catholic bookstore

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 08:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 2, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- On Saturday, protests in Chicago over the death of George Floyd turned violent. As rioters targeted the city’s Magnificent Mile shopping district, shattering glass and raiding stores, they picked an unlikely target: A bookstore run by nuns. 

As the Daughters of St. Paul cleaned up the broken glass the next day, they said they saw more clearly their mission to evangelize a wounded culture.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Our Sisters in Chicago are all safe, but our bookcenter was broken into and looted last night during the riots. <br>Please pray for our Sisters. <br>And pray for peace. <a href="https://t.co/Wzmkfpry6j">pic.twitter.com/Wzmkfpry6j</a></p>&mdash; Sister Bethany, fsp (@SrBethanyFSP) <a href="https://twitter.com/SrBethanyFSP/status/1267192262481543169?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 31, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Today “there is a lot of fear, there is a lot of confusion” and “many conflicting messages,” Sister Tracey Matthia Dugas of the Daughters of St. Paul told CNA in an interview.

“How do you find your peace in the midst of all of that?” she asked, “and now what we’re dealing with is this question of violence and how do you deal with that?”

“All we can do is bring them Jesus and the Gospel, and His Word, and allow Him to speak to them. So what we’re trying to do is foster every person, every child of God, to know God as a good father who will provide,” Dugas said.

The Daughters of St. Paul run the Pauline bookstore in downtown Chicago near Millennium Park. It lies just south of the Magnificent Mile of upscale retail stores and fashion outlets, which were the targets of looters on Saturday evening. Video of the Saturday protests circulated online show looting of Nike and Saks Fifth Avenue stores on Michigan Avenue. Some volunteers helped clean the area up on Sunday.

Protesters took to the streets in Chicago and nationwide last weekend to protest the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd was pinned to the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and several other officers apparently kneeling on the rest of his body.

Demonstrations against Floyd’s killing and of police brutality were held around the country late last week and throughout the weekend. Chicago was the site of one of the large protests. Earlier on Saturday featured participants peacefully sitting down on Lake Shore Drive. According to the Chicago Tribune, protesters blocked traffic on the street around 5:30 p.m.

Around 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dugas said the nuns at the Michigan Ave. bookstore were informed that looters were targeting businesses in the area, and that a nearby building was on fire. The sisters remained upstairs above the bookstore, safely out of range of the street-level riots.

Around 11 p.m. the glass alarm for the bookstore sounded, Dugas said. The nuns knew that looters were hitting the glass, but they did not go down to the bookstore to investigate. More alarms sounded through the night, around every two hours, Dugas said, before the last alarm sounded at around 4:30 a.m.

“It was very scary, because each of those times we didn’t know if they were inside, and how far they wanted to get into the store,” Dugas told CNA.

Later Sunday morning, the sisters surveyed the damage downstairs. The glass front doors to the bookstore were broken, as well as the glass front panel of the store. The cash drawers inside the bookstore were detached and the contents pilfered.

While one of the Daughters of St. Paul tweeted on Sunday morning that she “bet people were really disappointed when they got home and found that all they had to show for it was a handful of religious books,” Dugas said she is unsure what, if any, books were actually taken. Of more concern to her was the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament on the ground floor behind the bookstore, which survived the night unscathed. “We just are really grateful for that,” Dugas said.

As tweets circulated about what happened to the bookstore, support began pouring in for the nuns both online and in the form of volunteer help.

“People are telling us what our ministry has meant to them, and what our presence means to them, and that they feel that having had this happen was a violation and should never happen to anyone,” Dugas said.

A friend at Chicago’s cathedral reached out to check on the nuns, and Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles—the former rector of the Chicago archdiocese’s Mundelein Seminary —reached out to the sisters to say “that he really, really has always valued our mission, and feels that if he can do anything to help us, to just let know” Dugas said.

One family helped the nuns clean the broken glass outside the store, and another group helped clean up inside. The front entrance and front windows are now boarded up.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">On today&#39;s NunBlog: Pauline Bookstore Chicago Looting Update and How You Can Help <a href="https://t.co/wRZ0zJqiA7">https://t.co/wRZ0zJqiA7</a> <a href="https://t.co/AWFZd1G4SS">pic.twitter.com/AWFZd1G4SS</a></p>&mdash; Sister Anne (@nunblogger) <a href="https://twitter.com/nunblogger/status/1267470125281824768?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 1, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“Our main concern is fire. That’s our main concern, if they managed to get some kind of flammable into the store,” Dugas said. “It seems that they came with quite a lot of equipment.”

Despite the unsettling nature of the incident, Dugas said it emphasized the critical nature of the sisters’ mission of evangelizing in the spirit of St. Paul.

“That’s what St. Paul was all about, meeting them where they really are,” Dugas said, noting that the pandemic had already pushed the nuns to “adapt” to new means of reaching minds and hearts.

“We really are meant to be a family that helps each other, that serves one another, and that forgives,” she said.

Citing COVID risk, Davenport bishop calls for release of detained migrants

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 02:42

Denver Newsroom, Jun 2, 2020 / 12:42 am (CNA).- Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa has written a letter to the local homeland security chief asking for the release of three detained immigrants from Guatemala.

The bishop says that the three men are non-violent offenders who pose little risk to the community.

“The present COVID-19 pandemic places immigrants being detained in a very vulnerable situation,” he says in the letter, addressed to Michael Hindman, Homeland Security Chief of Cedar Rapids.

Zinkula told CNA that he read about the situation of the three men and their families in the local press and in emails from the Iowa City Catholic Worker House.

Jose Cerillo and his two brothers-in-law, Jacinto Cuyuch-Brito and Juan Daniel Cuyuch-Brito, were arrested March 4 in a Cedar Rapids immigration raid, according to local media. They were charged with possessing false work documents or entering the country illegally.

Jose’s wife, Juana, spoke at a May 6 press conference in Cedar Rapids. She said that law enforcement officers knocked on the door of their apartment shortly before 7 a.m. on March 4. The officers broke down the door, and searched their clothes and phone contacts, she said, according to The Catholic Messenger.

Juana said she was questioned for more than two hours. At the May 6 press conference, said she was worried about her husband, who is being held in Linn County Jail, which has seen at least two confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Jose has a serious heart condition, his wife said, making him more likely to experience serious or fatal complications from COVID-19.

“We're just here to work. We come here because we have to, out of need,” Juana said, according to the Des Moines Register. “If one of us gets it and we ended up dying, we won't get to see each other again.”

Jacinto Cuyuch-Brito’s wife, Rosa, is also struggling with her husband’s absence. She and her baby boy – who was just two months old at the time of the arrest – have moved into the local Catholic Worker House, because they cannot afford to pay rent with her husband detained.

Bishop Zinkula said he was struck by Rosa’s story and wanted to see if there was a way that he could help. While writing a letter is a simple action, he said he thought “maybe given my role, I could give it a little more attention.”

The letter argues in favor of allowing the men to return home to their families while the await their court proceedings.

“Providing less restrictive sanctions will reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus for these three nonviolent individuals, those who are in jail for legitimate public safety reasons, and jail staff continuing their frontline essential public safety work,” the bishop writes.

Zinkula said his proposal would help protect the vulnerable and honor family unity without compromising public safety.

“These are basic principles of [Catholic] Social Teaching – the dignity of each and every human life,” Zinkula told CNA. “We’re all children of God, and everyone should be treated with respect. This is just an application of that principle. Here’s this real-life situation, where it doesn’t seem like that’s happening.”

He noted a CDC analysis in April which found that among correctional and detention facilities reporting statistics, 86% of jurisdictions had inmates testing positive for coronavirus. Because social distancing is difficult in prison environments, jails throughout the country have become hotspots for the virus.

Zinkula has not received a response to his letter, which was sent May 7, but is still hopeful that the three men will be released from detention.

The bishop encouraged the faithful to “look at the situation through a Catholic lens rather than a political lens. Remember, we’re Catholic before we’re members of a particular party.”

“Immigrants are fellow human beings, brothers and sisters in Christ and they need to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said. “They are here, and no matter how they got here, they are fellow human beings and so we need to treat them like they are.”
 

Religious freedom foes seek to leverage coronavirus controversies

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 20:00

Denver Newsroom, Jun 1, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).-  

The Center for American Progress, a longtime critic of religious freedom protections, has claimed churches seeking equal treatment under coronavirus public health rules have been “distorting religious freedom into a license to spread the coronavirus.” But religious liberty experts disagree.

Churches “argue that religious freedom should essentially overrule all other rights,” Center for American Progress staff said in a May 6 commentary. “Using religious freedom as an excuse for continuing to hold in-person gatherings is one of the most alarming examples yet in their attempt to redefine the principle.”

But Teresa Stanton Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, disagreed with that claim.

Religious liberty “exemptions simply honor the promise of religious liberty contained in our state and federal constitutions,” Collet told CNA May 29.

“They also represent a more robust understanding of human needs – needs that extend beyond mere physical existence. They are similar to, but different from the exemptions for journalists and reporters. Both exemptions are grounded in constitutional protections recognizing our need for human connection and communication.”

The Center for American Progress has claimed that officials in at least 20 U.S. states “discriminated in their implementation of public health orders by including religious exemptions.”

“Giving religious communities a free pass to remain open, thereby spreading the virus, has never been based on evidence-based public health guidance,” said center staff. “Those exemptions were made to acquiesce to certain conservative religious leaders, politicians, and legal advocacy groups who advance a narrative that conservative Christians are being persecuted in this country.”

While the center tried to depict these policies as conservative, it listed several Democrat-controlled states with religious exemptions.

Those states include New York, whose March 20 order did not order houses of worship to close but “strongly recommended no congregate services be held and social distance maintained.” Massachusetts’ March 22 order recognized workers at places of worship as essential and exempted these places from closure, but still limited gatherings to no more than 10 people. Colorado’s April 1 order allowed houses of worship to open, provided they “practice social distancing or use electronic platforms.”

A minority of those who contract the coronavirus will suffer severe symptoms and require hospitalization, and severe cases can be deadly. Over 102,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, out of some 1.75 million confirmed cases, according to Friday figures from Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 Dashboard.

The Center for American Progress’ May 6 commentary, “The Plan for Reopening Houses of Worship After the Coronavirus Crisis,” built on previous critiques. Its March 27 commentary, written early in the epidemic, bore the threatening title “Religious Exemptions During the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Only Worsen the Crisis.

Richard W. Garnett, law professor at Notre Dame Law School, told CNA that these Center for American Progress commentaries “repeat their standard, but incorrect, claim that religious freedom advocates are ‘misusing’ religious freedom principles and laws in order to burden or harm others, are claiming an ‘absolute’ right to override general laws, and are trying to assert, in the name of religious freedom, a ‘license to discriminate’.”

“This is hyperbole,” Garnett continued. “In fact, religious freedom advocates and litigators contend that because religious freedom is foundational and fundamental -- as both international human rights law and the American tradition recognize -- it is appropriate for governments to take care not to burden religious practice unless it is necessary to advance a compelling public interest.

“Not all religious exemptions can be granted and religiously motivated conduct is not immune from reasonable regulation. But, in our tradition, if we can accommodate religious practices, then we should.”

The Center for American Progress also criticized the religious liberty legal groups Becket, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Liberty Counsel, saying they “have been twisting religious freedom into a license to attack vulnerable populations for years before the pandemic.”

The legal groups were among those supporting more than a dozen state and federal lawsuits seeking to reduce or lift limits on in-person religious worship.

According to Collett, however, equality is one principle at the center of lawsuits from churches and religious communities challenging epidemic restrictions. The government “cannot restrict religious communities and activities more than similar non-religious groups and actions,” she said.

In the case of Greenville, Mississippi, the city allowed drive-in restaurants to operate under coronavirus restrictions but tried to fine attendees at a drive-in church service $500 per person.

“After legal action was initiated, the mayor reversed his positions. As U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said in his statement supporting the churches, ’religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens’,” Collett said.

It is “irrational and unconstitutional,” she added, to allow retail stores to open with social distancing requirements while prohibiting religious gatherings of more than 10 people in spaces built to accommodate 200 or more.

A more contested principle in these debates, said Collett, is the claim that religious beliefs, communities and activities are “uniquely valuable” and any restriction must have “greater justification,” like other First Amendment rights of speech and assembly.

“This is the principle that some governors and mayors relied on when they declared religious activities to be among the state’s essential services,” she said. “Under this principle, the government can temporarily shut down movie theaters and concert venues, while permitting worship services and public masses to continue.”

Garnett echoed these comments. Despite some outlier cases, religious communities “have agreed that reasonable, temporary limits on in-person gatherings are justified by public-health concerns.”

“Mainstream religious-freedom advocates and religious leaders agree that generally applicable, non-discriminatory restrictions on in-person gatherings may be applied to religious services.,” he said.

“They also insist, appropriately, that if our knowledge and the evidence are such that officials determine that some gatherings or group activities are permissible, it is wrong to discriminate against religious gatherings that are similar to those that are permissible,” Garnett continued. “There are lines to be drawn, of course, and comparisons can be difficult, but it would seem that if a casino or a theater can open safely then so can a religious gathering.”

Some of the legal arguments cited by the Center for American Progress themselves seemed to justify this approach.

“As exemptions (for critical infrastructure) pile up, churches have a legitimate beef. When governments fail to apply burdens across the board, the argument that the government must restrict public gathering for worship in the name of the public’s health becomes less compelling,” the legal scholars Robin Fretwell Wilson, Brian A. Smith, and Tanner J. Bean said in a March essay quoted by the center’s staff. These scholars contended that this meant there needs to be “fewer exemptions, not more.”

CNA sought comment and clarification from the Center for American Progress.

Maggie Siddiqi, director of the think tank’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative and co-author of the two commentaries, responded:

“As our nation surpasses 100,000 deaths from Covid-19, we would urge states and localities to avoid allowing any large gatherings, including at houses of worship. Numerous outbreaks of the virus have been documented at houses of worship, even when congregants were attempting to practice social distancing. The right to religious freedom is not a license to spread the virus and put communities at risk. We applaud the leadership of the vast majority of houses of worship in our nation that are saving lives by continuing their services while keeping their building doors closed.”

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, another think tank co-author, was critical of the Trump administration’s religious freedom concerns about Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

In a May 14 commentary for CNN, Graves-Fitzsimmons said “the administration is once again trying to unfurl the banner of what it might describe as religious freedom, this time as cover for a premature push to reopen the economy.”

The Center for American Progress appears to envision continued limitations on religious worship.

“Even once stay-at-home orders are lifted, gatherings of more than 50 people will need to continue to be banned until herd immunity has been achieved through mass vaccination,” it said May 6. “These continued limitations will have a profound impact on religious communities and will require creative responses.”

However, a group of Catholic clergy and public health experts has put out guidelines on the sacraments and the restoration of public Masses through the Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacramental and Pastoral Care, a project of the Thomistic Institute at the Pontifical Faculty of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

One member of the group, infectious disease expert Timothy Flanigan, M.D., told CNA May 21 that the critical question is not necessarily whether it is safe to go to Mass, but whether a religious congregation or any other group gathering is following CDC protocols to decrease the risk of transmission. These protocols include safe distancing, good hand hygiene, staying home if sick, and wearing masks.

“Following that guidance is so important for all of us to do,” he said. “Whether it’s in a mall, whether it’s in a supermarket, whether it’s in an office building, whether it’s in a meeting.”

Flanigan is a professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.

Clusters of Covid-19 infections have taken place around the world at elder care facilities, hospitals, meat processing plants, religious venues, worker dormitories, prisons, schools, sports events, bars, shopping venues, and conferences.

Churches have drawn special concern in part because the novel coronavirus is uniquely difficult and deadly for the elderly who develop symptoms, and some congregations tend to be disproportionately elderly.

Flanigan did not comment on any particular outbreak related to religious venues, but he noted that many incidents of contagion took place prior to the adoption of preventative guidelines.

Collett noted the apparent changing situation of the United States months after the arrival of the coronavirus.

“As our experience and knowledge of the disease, as well as our circumstances change, it is only right that our judgments are changing. And it is not surprising that we still reach different conclusions,” she said.

“Most Americans accepted that a brief shutdown of most of civil society was both necessary and desirable given the unknown nature of the disease, and the frightening images and numbers of deaths in Italy, and then New York City,” she said. “However, as we gain more knowledge about the disease, and see the harm accumulating from continuing isolation and inactivity, more and more ’exemptions’ arise.”

As CNA has previously reported, the Center for American Progress is a participant in a multi-million dollar campaign to limit religious freedom protections, especially where these conflict with the claims of LGBT or pro-abortion rights advocates.

It was founded by John Podesta, a former chief-of-staff for President Bill Clinton and campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential run. In 2016, Podesta drew attention after leaked emails implied he had backed several political Catholic groups for a so-called “Catholic Spring” revolt against the U.S. bishops.

 

Trump says he will dispatch troops if riots continue

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 19:45

Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2020 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- During a speech from the Rose Garden on June 1, President Donald Trump pledged to deploy the U.S. military if state governors do not move to activate their National Guards to stop violent protests.

The president then walked across a square that moments before had been filled with protestors forcibly removed by police units, and visited a historic Episcopalian church that had been on fire the night before.

“I am mobilizing all federal resources--civilian and military--to stop the rioting and looting. To end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of all law-abiding citizens,” said Trump during his speech.

The president said that it was his “first and highest duty as president” to protect the country and the American people, and added that all Americans were “rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd.”

Floyd, 46, died after a Minneapolis police officer held him on the ground during an arrest, his knee on Floyd's neck, even after the man said he could not breathe. The officer has been charged with murder. Throughout the country, protests and riots have been ongoing for the past week in response to Floyd’s death. Some of the protests have turned violent.

U.S. bishops have largely expressed support for peaceful protestors, and have condemned racism, police brutality, and the violent riots tha have gripped cities across the country.

“The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice. How is it possible that in America, a black man’s life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens?” U.S. bishops conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez said in May 31 statement.

“We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life,” Gomez added.

“It is true what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that riots are the language of the unheard. We should be doing a lot of listening right now. This time, we should not fail to hear what people are saying through their pain. We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.”

“But the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change,” the archbishop added.

In his June 1 speech, Trump stated that “justice will be served” and that Floyd “will not have died in vain.”

The president referred to himself as “your president of law and order,” and “an ally of all peaceful protestors.”

“But in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Trump spoke to the governors of states, and he stated that he believed many of them had failed on a statewide level to protect their citizens. He said he ordered them to “dominate the streets” with the National Guard, and to have an “overwhelming” law enforcement presence to prevent further violence.

”We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now,” said Trump.

Appearing to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, the president said that if governors refused to activate their National Guard units, he would “deploy the US military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked was during the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

The president faced criticism, and a conflict with Twitter, last week for a May 29 tweet that again suggested the possibility of military action, and said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Trump later said his tweet was not intended as a threat against protestors or rioters.

On Monday, Trump cited various acts of violence and vandalism that have occurred during the protests and riots, including the desecration of war memorials, beatings of people, the shooting death of a law enforcement officer in California, and the attempted arson of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. A fire was set in the basement of the church, which has been attended by every U.S. president.

Some protestors across the country have said that while violence and looting is unacceptable, some peaceful protests have turned violent only when police have fired tear gas or non-lethal projectiles at demonstrators. Trump's speech did not addess that charge.

“These are not acts of peaceful protests. These are acts of domestic terror,” Trump said.

“America needs creation not destruction; cooperation not contempt; security, not anarchy. Healing, not hatred. Justice, not chaos. This is our mission, and we will succeed 100%,” said Trump. “We will succeed. Our country always wins.”

Following the speech, the president walked from the Rose Garden to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo with members of his cabinet. The president did not enter the church, but returned to the White House after the photograph.

Churches in 6 states damaged by violent protests

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 19:00

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 1, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic churches and cathedrals in several cities were among the buildings damaged in the protests and riots that occurred nationwide over the past week.

Church buildings in California, Minnesota, New York, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado were attacked. Many of the defaced or damaged churches were cathedrals. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver sustained permanent damage. 

Vandals repeatedly struck the Denver cathedral on multiple nights of the protests and riots over the weekend. The church building and rectory were spray painted with the slogans “Pedofiles” [sic], “God is dead,” “There is no God,” along with other anti-police, anarchist, and anti-religion phrases and symbols. 

Gates surrounding the cathedral were damaged, and tear gas that was fired to disperse the protests leaked into the rectory. The doors to the cathedral are believed to have been permanently damaged by the vandalism and will reportedly need to be replaced. 

Three bags of rocks were collected from the parking lot, but the cathedral’s most valuable windows were unharmed. Other windows on the cathedral’s campus were shattered.  

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was tagged with various graffiti, including profanities, “No justice, no peace,” “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) “NYPDK.” The name of George Floyd was also written on the stairs outside the cathedral.

Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 sparked a week of ongoing protests in cities across the country, some of which descended into violence.

In New York City, surveillance video captured two women spray painting the cathedral on Saturday afternoon, during the protests in the city. Police are looking to identify both women and are offering a reward. 

On Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chairman of the Commission of Religious Leaders (CORL), issued a joint statement condemning the death of Floyd as well as violence and looting. 

“We respect those who want to honor George Floyd’s memory with peaceful protest against the horror, evil, and sin that is racism,” the statement said. 

“We also support the members of Floyd’s family who said, in part, ‘We cannot endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and in outrage. Looting and violence distract from the strength of our collective voice.’” 

In Dallas, the Saint Jude Chapel located in the city’s downtown area was severely damaged by rocks late Friday evening. 

“We did have some vandalism at St. Jude on late Friday night. They threw a couple of these rocks through the window,” said Fr. Jonathan Austin, chaplain of the chapel, during his homily at Sunday’s Mass. Austin held up one of the rocks that was thrown through the window. 

Austin said that when he watched a surveillance video of the vandalism, he doubted that the vandals knew that they were even attacking a church, and that he suspected they were “breaking things to break things.” 

“I looked in their eyes and I thought, ‘wow, they don’t even know.’ Just the smile that was there, that this was a good thing,” he said. 

Three windows at the front of the chapel were shattered, and the chapel was boarded up as a result.

“These panes of glass are nothing,” said Austin. “Glass breaks all the time, sadly. But last week, Mr. George Floyd’s life was taken. It was taken by a man who did not respect it.” 

Austin added that he believed the “vast, vast majority” of people throughout the country were “not rising up for something bad, but for something good.” He urged everyone to “stand for true peace,” and offered prayers for Floyd, his family, and others who lost their lives to “horrific acts, especially at the hands of authorities.” 

The Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Chicago was similarly damaged by rocks, and would-be looters entered the store early on Sunday morning. Earlier in the day, the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle in the bookstore’s chapel and the sisters sequestered themselves upstairs. 

None of the sisters were injured, and upon doing a review of inventory, found that nothing had been stolen. 

The rectory of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville suffered damage due to rocks thrown by protestors. Three windows were shattered late Friday evening, and the cathedral proceeded to preemptively board up all other windows to prevent further damage. 

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who resides at the damaged rectory along with another priest, has spoken out in favor of peaceful protests and condemned “senseless violence” in the city. 

In Minneapolis, where the protests began, St. Mary’s Basilica--the first basilica in the United States--sustained minor damage during protests on May 29. A fire was lit underneath a pew, but it did not spread beyond that pew. 

“The Basilica of Saint Mary did withstand minor damage yesterday. No one was injured in the incident. At the time we pray for peace and healing in our city,” a spokesperson for the basilica said in a statement issued May 30. The basilica is the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In Los Angeles, the Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter Cathedral, the Maronite cathedral for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, was vandalized with anti-police messages during the protests and riots. 

 

Tur Levnon / Heritage and Liturgy Department
Sad day for our cathedral in USA.
Vandalism against Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter Cathedral, the Official Seat of the Maronite Eparchy Our Lady of Lebanon in Los Angeles, California. pic.twitter.com/QirKfrk26r

— Tur Levnon (@turlevnon) June 1, 2020  

On Monday, the cathedral shared a video of people painting over the graffiti. 

“Peace to all !! Our Cathedral is shining again,” wrote the church on Facebook. 



Courage director responds to Austrian book on same-sex Church blessings

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 18:11

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- Blessings of homosexual couples in the Catholic Church would only obscure knowledge of what is important and good about persons with same-sex attraction, according to the director of Courage International.

“We need to have hope that some, perhaps many, of the people who propose things like these liturgical blessings for same-sex couples are motivated by good intentions. They do not want anyone to feel excluded by the Church, and so they look for ways to honor and recognize members of the parish in public ceremonies,” Fr. Philip Bochanski told CNA May 26.

Courage International provides pastoral support, prayer support, and fellowship for people with same-sex attraction who want to live chaste lives according to Catholic teaching.

"The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships" is a recently published, German language book which considers how homosexual couples might receive a formal, liturgical blessing of their union in the Church.

According to the book’s author, it was written in response to a request from the liturgical committee of the Austrian bishops’ conference.

Fr. Bochanski explained that pressing for blessings of same-sex couples “restricts rather than expands our understanding of what is good and important about our brothers and sisters.”

“To suggest that without a recognized sexual relationship (marriage or something like it), we are expecting people to live lonely, loveless lives, overlooks the fact that there are many kinds of love -- charity, affection, friendship, to name a few -- that are real, vital loves in their own right and not consolation prizes for people who aren't married. We appreciate love less, not more, by insisting on same-sex unions.”

The Church, he said, should “speak the truth in love to them as we call them to pursue chaste friendship in its fullness rather than a sexual relationship that is missing essential elements of its meaning and purpose. It is not always an easy discussion to have, but it is an invitation to deep, authentic love, rather than an imposition that restricts someone's freedom or fulfillment.”

Fr. Ewald Volgger, the principal author of the German language book, has said that through the blessing the Church would express “the obligation of fidelity and the exclusiveness of the relationship.”

Fr. Bochanski noted that “life-long fidelity and total exclusivity are two of the essential characteristics of conjugal union -- that is, the qualities that make marriage what it is,” along with complementarity and openness to procreativity.
If each of these four characteristics are present, “you have an intimate relationship according to God's plan,” he said. “If one or more of them is missing, then the relationship is outside of God's plan -- it is immoral.”

“The life-long fidelity and total exclusivity that are essential elements of marriage” are directed to erotic love, he said, and they thus tend “toward sexual union.”

“To say that people of the same sex ought to...pursue a permanent, exclusive relationship based on eros and not have a sexual union is unrealistic. But to tell them that in their pursuit of a permanent, exclusive relationship they can and should have a sexual union that by its nature excludes complementarity and procreativity is immoral.”

He added that “we find our fulfillment by following God's plan for our lives. The clear teaching of the Church is that sexual intimacy between people of the same sex is always immoral. To tell our brothers and sisters who are attracted to the same sex that the way to find happiness and fulfillment, in this world and in eternal life, is to pursue a relationship that is contrary to God's plan is a dangerous lie.”

Rather than pushing for blessings of homosexual couples, Catholics should begin outreach with accompaniment and listening, Fr. Bochanski stated.

“Our pastoral approach to people in same-sex unions who are seeking deeper participation in the life of the Church ought to start with a real willingness to ask for and listen to their stories.  Pope Francis says that ‘we ought to accompany them starting from their situation,’ and that when we welcome people with mercy and a willingness to take them where they are, ‘the Holy Spirit inspires [us] to say the right thing.’”

He said that “as we get to know the people who are coming to us, we begin to understand what they've been through, what they're looking for, and whether they're finding it.” Then a conversation about “what Christ and his Church desire for each member of the Body of Christ” can be had.

“We should invite people to talk frankly about what they understand of the Church's moral teaching, whether they are living it, and what makes it easy or difficult for them to do so,” he said. “In this way we can enter a long-term dialogue in which we can lead them, step by step, to understand the teaching more clearly, and embrace it more fully.”

Celibates have a particular role in this, the Courage director said: “We ought to testify by our words and our lives the joy that we find in sacrificing one type of relationship -- the sexually intimate relationship of marriage -- and diving deep into loving relationships with friends, family and parishioners....joyful, faithful celibates can give a powerful witness and encouragement to those who are being called to embrace chastity in the form of an intentional single life.”

Fr. Bochanski also noted that the Church’s teaching on sexual morality is based on both scripture and the nature of the human person. It is found in the opening chapters of Genesis, and is reiterated by both Christ and St. Paul, and is written “not only in the human heart, but on the human body: we can look at how men and women's bodies are different and related, and understand a great deal about God's plan for intimate sexual union.”

“Our understanding and evaluation of same-sex intimate relationships is simply an application of these broad principles to a particular question, and it is in harmony with the teachings on sexuality and chastity that apply to every person and to every relationship,” he reflected.

“We can and should always be looking for ways to make these teachings understandable, to speak them clearly in ways that modern people can...grasp the beautiful realities that the doctrine expresses,” Fr. Bochanski advised. “We find new ways to present the age-old teachings because of where they come from. The Word of God and the nature of the human person are unchanging and unchangeable, and so the truths they teach us simply cannot change.”

He called it “extremely distressing” that some German prelates “speak as if the Church's teaching can and ought to change. On the contrary, teaching that is part of the revealed Word of God and is consistently taught by the magisterium of the Church is held to be infallible and must be accepted with the assent of faith. This is particularly the obligation of priests, bishops and cardinals, who take an Oath of Fidelity at their ordinations in which they swear to hold these teachings firmly, teach them clearly, and shun anything contrary to them.”

The Courage director concluded, quoting from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons: "Departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve."

‘Covert White Supremacy’ tweet does not reflect Church’s values, Chicago archdiocese says

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 17:10

Denver Newsroom, Jun 1, 2020 / 03:10 pm (CNA).-
A chart detailing “Covert White Supremacy”— which a Chicago archdiocese office shared online amid widespread protests against racism in the city and across the country— was shared without permission and does not reflect the Church’s values, the archdiocese told CNA Monday.

The Chicago archdiocese’ Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, which coordinates prison ministry, domestic violence outreach, and pro-life efforts in the archdiocese, on Friday tweeted a picture purporting to detail “Covert White Supremacy.”


A screenshot of the tweet from the Archdiocese of Chicago, now deleted.

The top of the pyramid-shaped chart lists “overt” or “socially unacceptable” forms of white supremacy, including lynching, hate crimes, and racial slurs.

The bottom three-quarters of the chart lists “covert” or “socially acceptable” forms of white supremacy— including celebration of Columbus Day, racial profiling, tokenism, “white savior complex,” denial of white privilege, and “Make America Great Again.”

The chart was shared from the OHDS Twitter account May 29 without an accompanying caption. It was deleted June 1.

“An intern shared this tweet without permission,” archdiocesan spokesperson Susan Thomas told CNA in an email.

“We cannot speculate on that person’s intentions. We can say that it does not reflect the values of the Church or our Archdiocese and that person no longer works here.”

Though the chart has been shared broadly online since 2017, the original source is not immediately clear. It appears to have been shared on social media beginning around 2016, including on several faith-based websites such as the Christian blog Radical Discipleship. 

Several websites that shared the image cited a 2005 document from the Boulder, Colorado based Safehouse Alliance for Progressive Nonviolence as the source, which does include a black-and-white version of the chart.

The widely-shared color version of the chart includes most of the same information as the 2005 version. The phrase “Make America Great Again” on the chart is a later addition, since the 2005 version came out several years before the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, who popularized the phrase.

Dozens of cities across the country have seen widespread protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.  In the video of the May 25 arrest, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he is taken into custody— he died soon after. 

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested May 29, and has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the three other officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered a Mass for the soul of George Floyd and for his family May 27.

Chicago imposed a citywide curfew on Sunday night amid largely peaceful protests punctuated by reports of looting, fires, and vandalism.

Cardinal Blase Cupich said in a May 31 statement that though he was horrified by the violence, he was not surprised.

“I stand ready to join religious, civic, labor and business leaders in coming together to launch a new effort to bring about recovery and reconciliation in our city,”” he wrote.

“We do not need a study of the causes and effects. Those answers can be found on the shelves of government offices and academic institutions across our burning nation. No, we need to take up the hard work of healing the deep wound that has afflicted our people since the first slave ships docked on this continent. And we need to start today.”

Cupich called for a proportionate response to the many issues facing the nation.

“Surely a nation that could put a man in space, his safety assured by the brilliance of black women, can create a fair legal system, equitable education and employment opportunities and ready access to health care,” Cupich said in his statement.

“Laws do not solve problems, but they create a system where racism in all its forms is punished and playing fields are leveled.”

 

Archbishop Gomez on racism: 'It should not be this way in America'

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 13:35

CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 11:35 am (CNA).-  

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles condemned violence and racism on Sunday and called for peaceful protests. The leader of the country’s largest Catholic diocese and the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference addressed the weekend’s violence and civil unrest, both in his Pentecost homily and in a statement released by the USCCB. 

“When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children — beloved sons, beloved daughters,” said Gomez in his homily, delivered on Sunday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. 

Addressing a week of protests and violence following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, the archbishop said that there are “millions of our brothers and sisters who are still forced to suffer humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity just because of their race or the color of their skin," and that “it should not be this way in America.” 

Gomez added that “racism is a sin,” and one that “denies what God wants for the human person.” 

“But the way forward for us is love, not hate and not violence. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” said Gomez, referring to the numerous protests throughout the country, some of which descended into rioting and looting. Gomez said that the Gospel proclaimed a message of peace. 

“Today more than ever, we need a spirit of peacemaking and searching for nonviolent solutions to our problems,” said Gomez. 

Later on Sunday, Gomez released a statement from his office as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoing many of the points he made in his homily. 

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I share the outrage of the black community and those who stand with them in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and across the country,” said Gomez in the statement. 

The archbishop said that the killing of George Floyd was “senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice.” 

“How is it possible that in America, a black man’s life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens?” asked Gomez. While saying he is praying for Floyd’s family and loved ones, Gomez said civil authorities must bring justice to those responsible for his death. 

As for the protests, Gomez said that these “reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin.” 

“It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life,” he added. 

The archbishop condemned how some “legitimate protests” have been “exploited by persons who have different values and agendas.” 

“Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors, does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity,” he said, adding that “we should not let it be said that George Floyd died for no reason.”

“We should honor the sacrifice of his life by removing racism and hate from our hearts and renewing our commitment to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise--to be a beloved community of life, liberty, and equality for all.”

Amazon delivery driver who prayed God would protect sick child says 'God is good'

Sun, 05/31/2020 - 09:00

CNA Staff, May 31, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- When Monica Salinas went to work on May 2, she didn’t expect to become a viral social media hit, or the subject of news features across the country. But she did. Because she took a moment to pray, and that moment was caught on camera.

Salinas, 41, delivers packages for Amazon in Idaho. A native of Texas, Salinas lives in Idaho, and along with her mother sings in the parish choir at St. Paul Catholic Church in Nampa, Idaho, outside of Boise.

 

?VIDEO | Know the story behind this viral video: Monica Salinas was delivering an order from @amazon when a message touched her heart and she was moved to pray for a little boy named, Lucas. pic.twitter.com/qyUQFi3w3N

— EWTN News (@EWTNews) May 29, 2020  

On her May 2 route, Salinas saw a sign at the door of one customer that gave her a moment’s pause. The sign explained that a child with medical needs lived at the home, and thanked delivery drivers for delivering the supplies he needed.

The child, nine-month-old Lucas Pearson, has a cardiac condition that has led to feeding issues. He requires thickeners that were being delivered by Amazon.

When Salinas saw the note, she stopped to pray for Lucas.

“I was delivering a package and I saw a message on the door explaining that the baby at home needed many things and was grateful for us delivering things. It touched my heart,” Salinas told CNA.

“I said ‘‘Dearest God, please protect this family through your Precious Blood, and this baby, so that he may grow to become a man.’”

After she finished praying, Salinas made the sign of the cross, and left the porch.

Raquel Pearson, Lucas’ mother, saw Salinas praying through the video feature of her Ring doorbell. She was touched.

“My husband and I saw the video and started crying. We were very grateful that a stranger would take time out of her very busy day to pray for our baby,” she told CNA.

“We posted the video on Facebook and people started recognizing her.”

Indeed, people did start recognizing Salinas. The video went viral, and was shared more than 100,000 times. It was featured in national news broadcasts for several days.

Salinas’ mother, Dora Salinas, says the video represents her daughter’s life of faith.

“We both belong to a choir in our parish. She sings, she plays the guitar, she praises God with all her soul always,” Dora Salinas told CNA of her daughter Monica.

“That day she felt compassion for the sick baby and for his parents’ suffering” … That’s why she stopped there for a little while, just a little while to pray, because they (delivery people for Amazon) are always rushing, they have a very little time to deliver their packages,” Dora added.

Monica Salinas told CNA she hopes the viral video will invite more people to prayer.

“God has always been very important in my whole life…and I would like to let everyone know that God is good. I always tell people, every day, that God is good, one day at a time.”

 

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